Gardening isn’t all joy. Watching the garden evolve and change with the seasons is one of a gardener’s greatest pleasures but the pleasures also entail a lot of work. Therefore, the avid gardener is always searching for tools that will make maintenance easier.
- Hori-hori: The last time I misplaced my hori-hori (Japanese weeding knife), I thought I would go crazy. Before I discovered the hori-hori, I had always used a trowel but it’s comparable to that cliché, “Once they’ve seen Paris, you can’t keep them down on the farm.” A client, to whom I had sold one, called me frantically a few days later. She and her husband had both been working in the same bed and he kept wanting to use her hori but she didn’t want to give it up. Now that they have two horis, there is peace in the family again.
A hori is sturdier and more ergonomic than a trowel. It doesn’t exacerbate the muscles or nerves in your wrist or elbow like a trowel does because it is basically a carbon steel blade that you stab into the soil, pull backward or forward to create the hole for a small plant or to dig out a weed, and then push in the opposite direction to move the soil back into the hole. The six and a half inch blade is serrated on one side and smooth on the other.
There are some stainless steel versions available but I love the carbon steel because it never rusts and never wears out. The only danger is losing it. That is why I spray paint the wooden handle red and why I stab it into the ground, instead of laying it down, when I need two hands for something else. I just can’t live without my hori. Need one? I’ll sell it to you for $25+tax.
Mini-scythe: I love ornamental grasses but cutting them down in the early spring is quite a chore. My ideal tool for this chore is a mini-scythe, also called a serrated blade sickle. This is another wonderful Japanese tool with a wood handle that should also be spray painted a bright color.
The very sharp, very toothed blade is only eight inches long but what a job it does. I just grab a large bunch of stems with my left hand and use the scythe to saw the stems as close to the ground as I can. Need one? Only $11+tax.
Kneeling cushion/Exercises: You are not a wimp if you use a waterproof kneeling cushion. You have to take care of your body. A lot of weeding can be done while you sit or kneel comfortably on a cushion and swivel your body to weed.
Gardening is good exercise but it needs to be smart exercise. Many of us do a lot of sitting during the winter and then complain bitterly about our aches and pains in the spring, the time of the majority of garden chores. I highly recommend a few exercises that you can do all year. One is knee bends, ten every other day. Get used to kneeling rather than bending over. The other is standing toe touches, again ten every other day. I know that I just said don’t bend over but sometimes, we forget and other times there is no other way to reach a plant. The toe touches will stretch your hamstrings and your back.
Pruners: We can’t live without our pruners. Do not buy pruners without taking them out of the case and seeing how they feel in your hand. I have a very small hand. If the pruners are too large, they stress the nerves and muscles in my hand, a sure prelude to carpal tunnel syndrome. If the pruners are heavy, your hand will tire very quickly. I am not a fan of ratchet pruners; I would rather use loppers that allow you to use your larger arm muscles for leverage.
Pruning is a very repetitive motion and a carpal tunnel syndrome inducer even with the best of pruners. Try to alternate fifteen minute periods of pruning with fifteen minute periods of weeding.
I also highly recommend wearing a stiff wrist brace with a metal plate to prevent or alleviate carpal tunnel syndrome. I know that it has helped me immensely. The braces have several Velcro straps that can be adjusted.
What are your favorite tools?